Party time

Hill towns are getting ready to cope with the onslaught of the New Year Eve revellers, says Kuldeep Chauhan

The New Year Eve revellers from across the country are making a beeline for the hill stations of Manali and Shimla, to celebrate hopefully a merry “White” New Year, ringing out the “black spots” of 2006.

For the revellers major attraction is not only the snowfall that adds a special touch and a Santa Claus like aura soon after the Christmas celebrations, but also a slew of dine and dance New Year Eve balls, the bonfire parties and the five day long winter carnival of snow-sports and not to miss the cultural nights that begin on January 3 in Manali. The revellers throng the hill station, ringing out the shortcomings of the past year that hopefully ushers into a fruitful New Year the next morning.

House Full

All the private hotels in Kulu-Manali tourist circuit have registered over 40 per cent occupancy already, which is likely to go up, as the New Year draws near. The government-run HPTDC has reported almost 100 per cent occupancy rates after the Christmas for this week.

For locals, who are connected with the hospitality trade the New Year Eve is a harbinger of a good tourist season. But for the local hill folk, the New Year eve mania is nothing more than a ritual of greeting their friends and relatives, wishing them good and happy life in the New Year.

Though the New Year mania has caught up among the younger lot, who throng the hill stations in large numbers on the New Year Eve every year, but the celebrations are yet to catch the fancy of the family tourists in the country, reveal hoteliers. “The number of foreign tourists remain negligent as they do not like the hill stations crowded with tourists. Moreover, there are no professional and recreational facilities for skiing available in the ski resorts at Narkanda in Shimla and Solang Nalla near Manali in the state.

Having a Ball

The private hoteliers and the HPTDC offer attractive dine and dance balls or parties for the revellers in Manali. Each private star hotel offers New Year ball for its guests. The tourist arrival multiplies manifold as soon as it snows around New Year eve, say hoteliers.

Even the HPTDC has registered almost hundred per cent occupancy in its hotels for the New Year eve in Manali. “We organise Miss Manali contest at the Club House for the guests. This time we are offering packages of Rs1500 per couple for the dance and dine New Year eve party here”, says HPTDC Marketing Manager Rajinder Sharma.

However, the hoteliers in Kulu-Manali and Shimla, including the HPTDC throw a slew of dine and dance parties, dishing out DJs and music to the revellers. Even the district administration holds the five-day long Winter Carnival in Manali that begins from January 3 every year to prolong the stay of the tourists after the New Year Eve in Kulu-Manali for a couple of days. But the carnival remains more or less a local mela, reveal hoteliers. “The winter carnival has yet to catch the fancy of the tourists as both marketing and quality of programmes remained poor over the years”.

Winter carnival

This year, the winter carnival promises a slew of attractions for the tourists to make it success. Apart from the traditional folk dances and dramas, the winter carnival offers good feats including snow sports and other competitions for tourists. The organisers will select Winter Queen and Mr Manali during the carnival, which is also open for tourists.

To make the carnival a special attraction the district administration has tied up with the Western Himalaya Institute of Mountaineering and Trekking and Allied Sports, Manali to organise winter games.

The SDM, Manali and President Winter Carnival Mr Vinay Thakur says that over 9 different cultural events would feature in the carnival. The Punjabi pop singer Mikka, Star Idol finalist Anuj Sharma and other artistes would give their performances during the cultural nights. “One cultural night would be sponsored by the Doordarshan”, he adds.

As the snow remains the prime attraction for tourists during winter season, the winter carnival will feature a slew of snow sports, including skiing competitions for the sub-juniors and juniors at Solang Nallah ski resort about 15 kms from Manali.

Though the ski resort experienced snowfall last week but if the weather god obliges, an extra spell of snow around the New Year would come as a harbinger of more tourists, giving an extra boost to the winter carnival and snow games in Manali.

The panel of judges will choose the Winter Queen during the winter carnival. The competition is open for all including tourists. “The idea is to ensure tourists interaction with local residents to cultivate a good relation and hospitality. After all, Manali is a tourist town”, comment tourism officials.



Holiday haven
Anuradha Shukla

When the earth rose to kiss the sky, mountains were formed: The mystique, grandeur and beauty of these glorious monuments of Mother Nature has forever lured the romantic at heart. What better way to rejuvenate the spirit than in the lap of these hills! Hope of finding that perfect heaven is within reach now with a new hill resort opening at Mangothi village, near Dharampur.

As we set out to find the same, the road takes us higher and higher into the hills, leaving behind the hustle-bustle of the city. Passing through Kalka and then Dharampur to Mangothi in Solan district to reach the resort, we come across the sunny building, which is now aptly called Surya’s Rock Rose Resorts. The sheer ambience of the place eases out the frown lines, which you might have acquired while meandering through the road that leads to the resort.

A small restaurant for those who just want to grab a quick bite greets at the entrance. A stone underneath a tree here says something about the original restaurant, which was called Rock Rose (it was built in June 1991) in Bengali. The road leads further up to the resort promising to be your safe haven for as many days you want.

One can see the small railway track of carries the famous heritage train from Kalka to Shimla and also the Monkey Point of Kasauli as well as the Gurkha Fort of Jablee.

If you think that you will miss the city, think again. You are not going to be deprived of comforts you are used to as the resort has a heated swimming pool, sauna, steam bath, jacuzzi, massage parlour and even a discotheque. “Indoor games, ayurvedic centre, travel desk, satellite music, outdoor play pen, beauty parlour, cable television, all included in the tariffs,” says Kamaljit Singh, the owner of the resort, who also happens to own the Fun City amusement park.

“The resort now has 22 rooms. And we are adding two-room cottages soon,” says Kamaljit. With tariff starting from Rs 1600 to Rs 4500, the resort has the holiday experience ready for you.



Shimla’s six statues
by Shriniwas Joshi

Among the statues of national leaders in Shimla, that of Lala Lajpat Rai is the first. On Lalaji’s death in 1928, Arya Swarajya Sabha Punjab, Lahore decided to erect a statue in his memory. Mahatma Gandhi and Moti Lal Nehru jointly laid the foundation stone of its pedestal on December 25, 1929 at Golbagh. Vitthal Bhai Patel unveiled the statue on January 1, 1930. After the partition of India, it was brought from Lahore and was re-erected at the Scandal Point here. Dr. Gopi Chand Bhargava, the then Premier of the erstwhile East Punjab, unveiled it on August 15, 1948.

The statue of Mahatma on the Ridge was raised on an awkward looking low pedestal with a sort of ramp on it. A Stock Book old entry of the Corporation shows purchase of a bronze statue of Mahatma Gandhi for Rs11, 250 on September 12, 1956. The purchase in September hints at its erection on October 2 that very year. The tourists and denizens had heydays in making way to the ramp of the pedestal and getting photographed with the Father. The memento from Shimla for the lucky ones, in those days, used to be the spectacles of Mahatma, which were replenished on a regular basis by the Shimla Municipal Committee (it was not Corporation then). Fed up with constant change of spectacles, the Committee decided to do the job only once in a year, i.e., on October 2, Mahatma’s birthday. The standard joke then was that the politicians could now go ahead with whatever scam (the word is a later addition to the people’s vocabulary and gives ‘hi-fi bytes’ to lowly ‘fraud’ of those days) they wanted to indulge in because Mahatma with naked eyes could not see beyond a certain limit.

The statue’s story would remain incomplete if the name of Professor Abdul Majid Khan, an educationist and India’s former Consul to Mashad, is not mentioned here. Rain or shine, he would walk all the way from Sanjauli to offer daily morning prayers and dhoop-batti to the Mahatma.

Sonawadekar’s creation is a Dr. Y. S. Parmar statue on the Ridge. Installation of this statue on August 4, 1984 on a high pedestal gave birth to a question that how could founder of Himachal be on a pedestal higher than that of the Father of the Nation and so appropriateness was awarded to Gandhi’s pedestal in 1996 thus relieving the Committee of the onerous task of changing spectacles.

Ram Suttar’s creation Indira Gandhi made her entry on the Ridge on January 26, 1990. It was, however, not as dramatic as it was on January 25, 1971, when she had come here in flesh and blood to give statehood to Himachal Pradesh and also a white mantle of one foot deep snow to Shimla.

Chaura Maidan known more for its proximity to the Hotel Cecil than for its width was renamed as Ambedkar’s Chowk when Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s statue sculpted by Sunil Kumar Pal was installed there on April14, 1993. Ram Suttar’s deft hands carved the statue of Rajiv Gandhi that was unveiled on August20, 1997, at a small vacant space touching the heritage building of Chhota Shimla Police Station and the space stood baptised as Sadbhavana Chowk (good will square) since then.

Nobody dared raise a finger on why the six statues were there but persons like Saddam Hussein should have known the yardstick for erecting a statue laid down by the Roman politician Marcus Porcius Cato, “I had rather men should ask why no statue has been erected in my honour, than why one has.”


In a recent seminar held at Bachat Bhawan, Late Manohar Singh, the great stage actor from Himachal, figured again. He figures in many such get-togethers and generally the question asked derogatorily is, ‘What has he done for Himachal Pradesh?’ Once on a short visit here he had chanaa-bhaturaa at ‘Sita Ram and Son’ at Lakkar Bazaar. When he had his fill, he got up to make the payment. Sita Ram who had recognised him stood up and, with folded hands, said, “Sir, you have glorified the name of Himachal throughout the length and breadth of the country and beyond. I feel honoured that you came to my shop and taken this humble dish. Please don’t embarrass me by paying for it.” I, in all modesty, prescribe two courses for Manohar Singh bashers– first course under the tutorage of Sita Ram and the second course, a plate of chanaa-bhaturaa there, on payment, of COURSE.



Shimla Diary
United colours of Christmas
Rakesh Lohumi

The Christmas celebrations in the “queen of hills” were an elaborate affair this year. The festivities commenced a week before the big day and the programmes had an unusual sufiana flavour, which is not associated with a Christian festival. Apart from carol singing, the programme also featured qawwals from the neighbouring state of Punjab who regaled a packed house in the lawns of the historic Christchurch on the Ridge.

The two groups of qawwals led by Prem Raza and Stephan Dhariwal sang qawwali in the praise of the Lord. They also rendered Christmas renditions in the form of bhajan and ghazal. All the 17 Churches of the Shimla district took part in the celebrations, an initiative of the local Young Men Christian Association (YMCA). The programme was open to all.

And finally, bhandara (community feast) like the langars organised in Gurdwaras and temples, was also organised. Mr Naresh Scott, general secretary of the YMCA, plans to make such programmes an integral part of the Christmas celebrations from the next year. Singers will be invited from various parts of the country. This year the qawwals were arranged by the newly set up YMCA at Batala.

Snowy New Year

Christmas has been an important festival in the erstwhile British summer capital. It was celebrated with great enthusiasm even though a large number of people deserted the hill station to escape biting cold for their annual winter sojourn in the cosy plains. In the post-independence era snow and ice-skating have been the main attractions for the revellers. In recent years a white Christmas and or a White New Year have been invariably eluding the city. However, it has become a craze with the people in the adjoining plains to celebrate Christmas and New Year in hill stations. The hill resorts in the state have a short but busy tourist season from third week of December to first week of January. If the weather god obliges with timely and adequate snow it gets extended by another two weeks.

Lone conductor

Going by the experience of the Himachal government, which took lead in appointing women as forest guards and bus conductors, not all the women are willing to take up the duties traditionally performed by men.

Out of a total 14 women conductors recruited by the state road transport corporation three years ago only one is actually performing her duty as a conductor. The rest have managed to get them posted in various offices. As Kanta Pathania posted in Dharamshala depot, toils hard travelling in buses day after day, other women conductors are enjoying the comforts of 10 am to 5 pm jobs. This, despite the fact, that the corporation is facing an acute shortage of conductors.

The situation is no different in the forest department. Most of the 42 women forest guards have been deployed in offices or serving in beats around urban areas only. All this is affecting the functioning of the department, which is already short of field staff. But that has not deterred the government from recruiting more women guards. Out of a total number of 447 forest guards to be recruited, 150 were likely to be females. The department will have problems in utilising their services at a time when it is seriously considering arming the field staff with weapons to face the forest mafia.

The government must provide the right work environment to women employees and also ensure that they are assigned jobs for which they were recruited.



Nobody loves me, I am nobody’s child

Apathy of officialdom is proving to be the bane of the Childline launched to protect the rights of hill children, says Pratibha Chauhan

Hill children are initiated into toil at an early age
BEAST OF BURDEN: Hill children are initiated into toil at an early age

It has been over a month when help was sought by a voluntary organisation from the police to rescue the 13-year-old grandson of Ramkali, a resident of Banuti village near Shimla, who was kidnapped more than a month ago. Till date all that the NGO has received is assurances with no news about the boy. The police failed to act upon information from the locals that the boy was seen working at a dhaba in Rohru.

It is this kind of insensitivity towards child rights that renders the efforts of the voluntary organisations ineffective. Launched as a nation wide effort to respond to calls by children in distress, the Shimla Childline took off here in August, last year.

Even though more than 680 calls have been received on this Childline, the insensitivity and lack of awareness, especially on the part of the officialdom is proving to be the biggest hindrance in the effective functioning of the Childline. In another cases the officials were informed about several children below the age of 14 years made to work in dhabas in Rampur but again there was lack of prompt action.

Launched as a project of the Union ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and Childline India Foundation (CIF), at present it is functioning in 75 cities all over the country. Though there are plans to extend it to districts but presently there is only one Childline in Shimla district.

The H.P. Voluntary Health Association (HPVHA) has initiated the childline with the Population Research Centre of the Himachal University being appointed as the nodal organisation. “The main objective of the childline is to respond to children in emergency situations but we as a voluntary organisation cannot do much without the help of various agencies like the police, health care system, judiciary and labour department,” Executive Director of the HPVHA Narender Sharma.

The government proposes to have a state level Childline Advisory Board, so that officials can be made aware about the rights of the child and extend all possible help to the agencies who are engaged in the task of rescuing children in emergency situations. “There are several instances where we try to seek official help but lack of awareness and sensitivity towards the issue becomes a major hindrance in helping the children,” says Sharma.

He rues the fact that very often the officials are not aware of the protection of the rights of the child as mentioned or ratified in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and Juvenile Justice (Care and protection of Children) Act, 2000.

The HPVHA on its part is trying to create awareness about the rights of the child and are holding lecture sessions in various schools of the town. “With our limited resources and staff we are trying to reach out to maximum number of school children, who are very curious to know about the childline and its functions,” said Childline Coordinator Sarna Garg.

She says that out of the total number of calls received on the Childline, 70 per cent are by children who are curious to know more about it’s functioning. The task of the Childline is to provide telephonic counselling to the children and help and rescue those undergoing exploitation, like child labourers or victims of flesh trade rackets, with the help of the concerned organisation.

Volunteers working in the field point out that calls by children seeking medical help, shelter, repatriation, emotional support, sponsorship or help against abuse should be extended immediate help which is possible only with the active support of the police and other government agency.



Ease traffic: HC
Jagmeet Y. Ghuman

The Parwanoo multipurpose barrier will soon be free from traffic blues thanks to HP High Court order banning the parking of trucks for over 5 minutes at the barrier. In its recent order the HC has also directed the deputing of well-dressed police personnel to man the traffic at the barrier.

Over the past year the barrier has turned out to be a nightmare for those entering the state. It was virtually painful exercise to find barrier stuck with long queue of heavy vehicles after crossing through the badly congested Pinjore and Kalka- markets. The situation used turn from bad to worse on the weekends from Kalka to Parwanoo where long queues of vehicles virtually move at snail’s pace because of frequent traffic jams.

The HC court order means that the Kalka- Shimla national highway stretch from barrier to Sector 6 would get rid of parking of trucks and canter along the road. It is learnt that the notices about court direction have already been issued to the concerned departments involved in collecting the taxes at the barrier.

Meanwhile similar communication has also been sent to the Indian Oil Corporation and Bharat Petroleum who have their petrol pumps, situated along the highway and the local canter union, to shift its vehicle parking from highway to some other place.

To ease the pedestrian way while crossing the barrier the marking on the road from the barrier to sector 6 will also be completed soon. Hundreds of pedestrians from Kalka, most employed in Parwanoo industrial units, cross the barrier before and after work hours risking their lives as in the past many pedestrians fell prey to the deadly traffic in and around the barrier.



Fossil Park in neglect
Vidya Rattan Sharma

The Siwalik Fossil Park at Saketi (Sirmour), 6 km away from Kala-Amb, was conceptualised and designed by the Geological Survey of India under the Union Ministry of Steel and Mines. This ambitious project is now groping in the dark for want of proper care. It needs urgent resuscitation. Over the years, it has become a no man’s baby. This stark comment has come from Mr R.S. Negi, Deputy Commissioner, who was talking to this correspondent.

However, it is not a question of money as the Union government is liberal with funds, claims Mr Shiv Charan, the official guide and supervisor. The main culprit is the disinterestedness on the part of the administration of Sirmour district, he says ruefully. The local authorities have failed to give land for a museum, already proposed by the archaeological department as part of the Park.

Until not long ago, the lake here used to be full of water facilitating boat rides for the visitors. But with the tourism department exiting from the area, boat rides now remain only in the minds of the visitors, who have more or less stopped visiting the place.

The Siwalik Park, which has a large collection of fossils, has the potential to emerge as a major tourist and geological attraction if the Himachal Pradesh Government takes a little more interest in its development. Those who dare to visit the park — in spite of all the problems that await them at Saketi — will have endure a nightmarish experience when they use the bumpy road to reach this place.

The fossils preserved in the museum are the remains of prehistoric animals and plants. These fossils remained buried in earth and got ossified due to certain climatic conditions. Some of them have become rock-like.

The oldest fossil is of 3200 million years of age. It is believed that the earth originated about 4600 million years ago. For the initial period of 1100 million years, no biological life could exist on this planet. In the form of protoplasm, life evolved in primordial oceans only 3500 million years ago.

There is a magnificent collection of vertebrate fossils among which are those of sea whales, carnivorous animals, elephants, deer, camels, giraffe and zebra. The elegant models of Peramacrodus leopard (with razor cut big tooth) Stegodaun Ganesa (with large teeth), Kolosochelis Atlas and Hexaprotodaun Swalensis await the arrival of tourists and researchers.

Mr Negi questions the attitude of the Archaeological department. He says there must be a single nodal agency and not a maze of tourism, forest, PWD and other departments who make a mess of the whole situation. Former MLA Kunwar Ajay Bahadur has also come out in strong support of the demand that the Himachal government should invest more time and resources to develop this unique park.



Harvesting rain water
Ambika Sharma

The ground water is facing an immense pressure in the Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh industrial areas due to its indiscriminate use.  Thousands of industrial units and scores of housing colonies, which have sprung up in the area have increased the water requirement.

Prime industrial places like Sai Road in Baddi, Bhatoli Kalan, etc., have been overburdened due to an influx of industries. Because of the industrial congestion groundwater level has declined by as much as 40 to 50 feet, says an official. In other places in the periphery of Baddi, including

Malkhumajra, Manpura, etc. the groundwater level has gone down by 20-30 feet according to an estimate. This has created a situation where it is hard now to find water even at a depth of 350 feet whereas it was earlier available at a depth of 250 feet.

Officials add that proper monitoring of such structures keeping a check on excess withdrawals and limited use of ground water were the immediate measures which need to be taken immediately. Despite all such provisions being enlisted in the state’s water policy not much had been done to implement these, added the field staff. The state government needs to strengthen its staff to ensure effective implementation of the policy as this alone would ensure a judicious use of water.

The TCP department has also made roof water harvesting compulsory. Stress has also been laid on devising technically efficient structures for ensuring water recharging. The capacity of rainwater harvesting structures has also been fixed at rate of 20 litres per square meters of the roof top area. Hence a house having 100 sq mt of rooftop will have 2,000 litres of rainwater harvesting tank. The officials will further ensure that before issuance of certificate of completion the  rain water harvesting structure is constructed in accordance with the submitted design. With a view to regulate and control the development and management of ground water the Himachal Pradesh government has recently devised a H.P. Ground Water (Regulation and Control of Development and Management) Act, 2005. Every user of the ground water in a notified area is supposed to seek permission from the authority. Anyone violation of this Act attracts  punishment.  But with scant staff to regulate such measures hand pumps and tube wells have been bore on adjacent plots. Stipulations like minimum distance of two hundred meters in case of shallow and three hundred meters in case of tube well from the existing source of water supply scheme or irrigation scheme fail to be abided by. Devised to check excessive withdrawals this norm is yet to be enforced in letter and spirit.

With colonies and industrial units coming up adjacent to each other several underground bores have been made across the boundary walls within meters. This causes maximum harm to the underground water level opines a hydrologist. Though the investors are supposed to erect a water harvesting structure and also ensure its recharging, nothing concrete appears to have been done in this direction, said an official.

He added that while the investors ensured that the drawings of all such structures were made available at the time of seeking a no-objection certificate, the structures actually put in place were unable to fulfill the requirement.

The absence of adequate recharging structures to replenish water sources has further added to the depletion of groundwater level.





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